Need at food pantry increasing
|Daniel Jones, of Batavia, picks out meat items as Barb Brady fills a bag for him at the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry on Friday, Nov. 16, 2012. (Staff photo by Bill Ackerman - email@example.com)|
A Batavia woman in her 70s who’s facing high medical bills visited the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry this month for some much needed assistance.
She’s been coming to the pantry for food assistance once a month for the past nine months.
She did not want her name to be published because of the perceived stigma associated with people needing food assistance, but she is grateful for the volunteers at the pantry.
“The people are helpful and outgoing,” she said. “And their heart is in it. They couldn’t do more than what they do.”
However, the volunteers are increasingly being asked to do more as the number of clients, as they’re called, has more than doubled since the start of the recession.
Last week on Tuesday, the pantry served 32 clients.
It served nearly 50 clients the Friday before.
And despite the fact the pantry closed at 3 p.m. last week, volunteers stayed helping well past 4 p.m. serving clients.
On average, volunteer Carol Ahmad said the pantry serves about 1,500 people every month, or between 400 and 450 families. The clients come from varying backgrounds and ages.
Ahmad said the pantry needs 12 volunteers every time the pantry is open, which is four times a week, and they are always looking for more volunteers.
Some local churches have designated days that they are responsible for providing volunteers.
“We’re very blessed by this community that supports this pantry,” Ahmad said.
The clients are allowed to come once a month for food.
But with Thanksgiving this month, all clients were offered a holiday meal box on Saturday containing turkey and all the traditional fixings in addition to their regular food assistance.
When the pantry is open, volunteers man each station which consists of metal shelves containing different categories of food, similar to a grocery store.
In fact, the pantry has an atmosphere reminiscent of a supermarket and clients can pick a certain number of items from each category depending on the size of their family.
Ahmad said the pantry only recently started allowing clients to pick their own food. Prior to this, volunteers would pack the items for them.
“We were packing stuff they weren’t really using,” Ahmad said. “People worried when we started this (client choice) because they thought (clients) would take too much,” Ahmad said. “But they’re taking less because they’re only taking what they need.”
And she said people feel more dignified when they get to choose their own food. It’s hard for someone to even acknowledge they may need food assistance, but it can be even harder for them if they have to eat food that they or their family don’t really enjoy.
But even with client choice, certain items are more popular than others and it can be difficult for organizers to keep up with demand.
“A lot of people like Ramen noodles,” Ahmad said.
Ahmad was surprised by how quickly the pantry’s stock of pasta sauce left the shelves last week.
Much of the food at the pantry comes from the Northern Illinois Food Bank based in Geneva.
Organizers can pay more than $1,600 for between 3,000 and 8,000 pounds of food.
“We can get a lot by ordering very cleverly from the bank,” Ahmad said.
Although NIFB is a nonprofit, Ahmad said for the organization’s overhead and transportation costs.
Local grocery stores also donate food which then can be applied toward a tax write-off for the company.
But Ahmad said organizers still have to buy additional items from stores, especially toiletry products which are also offered at the pantry.
“A lot of place run out of money, but we’ve never ran out,” Ahmad said.
She said clients who have moved to other communities are sometimes distraught because of the lack of adequate food pantry assistance there. Ahmad attributes the availability at the Batavia Interfaith Food Pantry to the generosity of the community.
Ahmad is a nurse who’s been volunteering at the pantry since 2000.
She like the other volunteers wanted to do something to give back.
Diane Means became more involved with the pantry after her husband, Clyde, died in 2005. He was the chair of the pantry.
“I grew up here. I’m retired,” Means, 62, said. “It makes me feel like I’m helping people out.”
Volunteer John Freedlund said he’s semi-retired and has been working at the pantry for the past three years.
“I was just looking for something useful to do with my spare time,” Freedlund said.
To be eligible for food assistance, clients must prove that they live in Batavia with a photo ID or a utility bill.
“We don’t ask them how much they earn or what their situation is,” Means said.
More News News
- District 210 passes proposed tax levy
- Glen Ellyn trustee resigns to pursue out-of-state career opportunity
- Police reports: La Grange, La Grange Park, Western Springs and Westchester for Dec. 18
- D-205 board passes $103M tax levy
- Police reports: Brookfield and Lyons for Dec. 18